Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Creative Alternatives to downsizing

News of downsizing spreads like wild fire and organisational mercury levels rise with the apprehensions that abound. It definitely is bad news for employees. Though downsizing is a common strategy adopted by organisations to cut costs, during recession it becomes a requirement. Research proves that the primary objective of downsizing, of cutting costs, is not met often, since most companies rehire.

To keep an organisation afloat managements either have to cut costs or increase revenues. They choose the easy way and downsizing happens. But there are organisations that think otherwise. They use some creative ideas instead of downsizing to cut costs. HR should be aware of the alternatives to apply them to their company.

Silver lining

Some organisations claim to have adopted techniques that could cut costs without resorting to downsizing. At Charles Schwab the top management took a 50% pay cut as an example to the other employees.

Rhino Foods, an ice cream manufacturing company in Vermont, sought employees' suggestions on the issue. One strategy that proved successful was to lend employees to their suppliers and other companies during off seasons. This way they cut costs without downsizing their employee strength.

Cisco is another company that does not believe in downsizing. During the depression its employees are allowed to work with non -profit organisations for 20-30% of their actual salary. Called the ' warehousing strategy ', it helps retain employees even during tough times.

Similarly Lincoln Electrical, Ohio, has not laid off any employees since 1930. During a sales slump they retrained their shop floor employees who were not more than high school graduates. They were expected to identify unexploited markets so that the company could leverage it. This done now Lincoln gets $800 million as revenue from the market the employees identify.

A drizzle

Organisations must realise that the alternatives should be developed keeping in view the present and the future needs, which are changing rapidly. The success of options are based on the fact that

  • Everyone has to go through cost cutting strategies
  • HR plays an important role in easing the strategies

Respite from the heat

Hiring for the future

Organisations should hire its employees with its vision and objectives in mind. HR should design interviews and assess based on their present and future skill requirements. Recruiting people who can meet future challenges will help the organisation in the long run.

Skill mix

An assessment of the skills available in the organisation and future needs will help employees to know skills they need to acquire and those that need sharpening. This also helps HR to identify training needs and provide for them accordingly.

Succession planning

Assessing the skill mix of the organisation helps in succession planning. The organisation can prepare probable candidates for the position and then appoint them when the position falls vacant. Employees need not thus be hired and laid off during recessions.

Opportunities that enhance overall development

Organisations sometimes create opportunities that help employees to innovate and add value to the organisation. Employees create a new line of business or identify untapped markets and help the organisation to exploit the area. However, organisations rarely adopt such options. Ford has done something similar to this. When they planned to sell the name Mustang to another company their engineers wanted to launch a Ford version of the car. The leaders accepted the proposal, on the condition that the new launch meets the quality specifications of Ford. What transpired is history. A cult was created by the Ford Mustang.

Working hours and wages

Sometimes organisations resort to reducing work hours by placing all the employees in flexible work arrangement. Others allow employees to share jobs and the benefits thereof.

Wage reduction is strategy where employees face wage reduction irrespective of their position in the organisation structure. The top management has the highest reduction followed by middle managers and lower level employees.

Alternative placements

When all the other alternatives fail to give expected returns organisations can find an alternative job for the laid off employees. AT&T adopted this option with a difference. The organisation advertised the availability of employees for other organisations. It paid off. Requests from various companies poured in to recruit the employees.


Organisations can explore various other ways to resolve the problem. Some organisations do not downsize but wait for their employees to leave on their own. These positions are not filled immediately so existing employees can be placed there.

Some others offer leave with benefits or part benefits to their employees. When they return from the leave they might be given the same or a different job position. Organisations also use employee buy-outs. The employees buy a business unit that is on the verge of closure and try to revive it on their own.

Few organisations offer the company's equity in lieu of the salary cuts. Although this decision needs strong employee participation the reality is far from it. Employees are hardly involved in any kind of decision- making.

Some of the Japanese companies use all the above alternatives. If one fails they use the next one.


Organisations should first check the appropriateness of the option chosen. They should visualise future needs and the options available. Organisations should assess their vision and determine whether they have the expertise to realise their vision.

The alternatives should be analysed individually using the questions and then the right mix of skills should be determined. Some questions to be asked before adopting the alternatives:

  • The alternative's scope of achieving the vision
  • The suitability of the alternative to the company's value
  • The costs and risks in using the alternatives
  • The impact of the alternatives on the people, their morale and productivity

Top managements often forget to recognise the trauma employees undergo when they are laid off. Management must place themselves in the employees' shoes to be able to relate with their distress.

Finally, when the alternatives are being implemented HR should first research the industry and see what competitors have been doing. Involvement of employees and the top management in the implementation of the alternatives eases the process.

Reference:The ManageMentor

Monday, November 24, 2008

How to purposefully increase your natural creativity!

There are three different kinds of creative responses.

Back-to-the-wall creativity

There are times when you are stuck in a difficult situation. Your back is to the wall. Your survival instinct comes into play very strongly. There is no option but to find your way out.

Suddenly your mind becomes very creative. It is as if you had a huge reserve of creative energy which is now available to you in one powerful burst. You do your best to come out of the predicament you have got into. And you do.

You can call this sort of creativity back-to-the-wall creativity. You are compelled to be creative because your survival is at stake. You find a solution because you can’t afford not to.

Manna-from-heaven creativity

You are driving on a highway. The weather is great. The landscape is beautiful. There is something in the air that connects you to some childhood memory. Soon your mind starts flitting from one memory to another. You feel very good.

Suddenly, something wells up in you and you are struck by a perfect solution to an unresolved issue. Or it can be a blockbuster of an idea capable of changing the course of your life. How it happens is a mystery.

You can call this sort of creativity manna-from-heaven creativity. It happens unexpectedly. It is a godsend. Some connections are made and magically an idea knocks at your door.

Conscious-and-purposeful creativity
You want to design a new product or launch a new service. Or maybe you are just looking for ways to enhance productivity. You consciously look for a creative solution. You collect all the information.

You get other people’s views.

You look at the problem from several angles and examine it clinically. You spend sleepless nights racking your brains. Then after several days of hard work, you hit upon the perfect solution. You are happy that your efforts have borne fruit.

You can call this sort of creativity conscious-and-purposeful creativity. This is the result of effort, hard work and discipline. It is a cool-headed, deliberate attempt to arrive at a creative solution.

It is all well-earned!

All three kinds of creativity have their due place in life. While the third kind is the result of your own sweat, the first two kinds are seemingly dependent on outside circumstances.

Interestingly, when you use the third kind of creativity more often, it sharpens your creative responses and builds some kind of a ‘reserve’ of creativity in you. It has the effect of enhancing your overall creativity including the first and second kinds.

While the third kind of creativity is obviously ‘well-earned’, the first two kinds are no less so because eventually they too are more or less dependent on the ‘reserve’ built by the third kind!

Reference: Shalu Wasu

HR Practices- Paper-less To Technology-full!

Converting offices into paperless zones.....
The concept of paperless offices eludes us but the initiative to create one still exists. Thankful as environmentalists are to businesses for pursuing the vision of a paperless office, this dream can only be fulfilled if there is an organisation- wide revolution. Strong the use of the word 'revolution' is, but organisations must realise that nothing short of revolution is what they need to convert all their activities to a virtual medium. Also, since half-hearted employee participation derails most initiatives, the need to excite employees about a paperless office should become the focal point of the 'paperless' drive.

In short, ensuring a smooth and complete transformation to a paperless office would require employees to be excited about using paperless or online alternatives. This week's mailer suggests a few approaches to eliminating the use of paper.

Failed efforts

Committed to converting his office into a paperless retreat, the director of a mortgage unit installed the latest scanners to discourage documents being printed, photocopied and sent to clients. He also invested in state of the art systems to speed up online communication. Soon after the scanners and systems were commissioned he made an announcement in the cafeteria declaring the office as 'paper free from tomorrow'. In addition to the protests that followed his announcement, what came as a blow was when some employees threatened to quit. The lesson learnt was to be careful in introducing technology to employees.

A recent study confirms that 70 percent of IT initiatives have failed. New systems end up untouched or under-used because employees find either the hardware or the applications too confusing and even difficult to use. As a result, the old paper-centric ways remain popular. Also, as Moez Limayem, an IT professor says, "IT projects fail not because of the technology but because human beings resist change and uncertainty." Therefore, in introducing the concept of a paperless office, the first step should be to excite employees about it to ensure high buy-in. Here are a few initiatives to create the hype.

Working towards the top

Clichéd as it sounds, nothing gains momentum without top management buy-in. But investing in technology based on top management inputs can be a big mistake. With employees as end-users, it is prudent to involve them in deciding on technologies to invest in.

While employees will 'in principle' agree to use what the management suggests `in principle', on-the-job usage is typically poor. As a technical executive says, "Many users will nod their heads happily as the technology gets deployed. But within days, they have figured out ways around it so they can do their job the way they always did, which results in a big waste of time and money all around." Therefore, it is a bad idea to introduce applications and systems without warming employee up to the idea of using them. The first step to this warm-up would be to conduct a survey to find out their choice. Next:

  • Advertise the findings of the survey to convey the requirement of technology
  • Highlight how new technology will enhance on-the-job productivity
  • Share encouraging case studies and other success stories
This warming-up initiative should create a welcoming atmosphere for new technology. The next step of course is to make employees comfortable and conversant technologically.
Seventy percent of fear of technology stems from unfamiliarity and only training helps de-demonise technology! Most companies put their employees through a short course on how to use a new application or system but such training has proved unhelpful in making those conversions. The better approach to training is to over-expose employees to new technology. The more training they receive the more comfortable they get.

Another approach to training is to get a handful of tech-savvy employees to master a particular application and make them subject matter experts. Other employees can then upgrade their knowledge gradually and use the technology under the tutelage of the experts. This informal approach to training has a better success rate.


While it is the employee who gains the maximum from the use of technology, organisations still have to motivate them to use it. What works best are monetary incentives. A sales organisation encouraged the use of technology by tying commissions to sales generated by use of technology. A salesperson with maximum online clients and interactions took home the largest bonus. As the use of technologically- intensive processes continues to remain low, monetary incentives work well.

Converting an organisation or office into a paper-free place is not an overnight effort. But since paperless offices are the need of the hour, organisations must expedite their efforts towards it. The above- mentioned suggestions should help in that pursuit.

Planning for Success!

Succession planning assumes a strategic role as recession hits talent supply...

Tough economic times are not about financial meltdown alone. There is also the collateral damage that comes with it. Economic downturn brings different challenges for different functions. For the human resources function, the challenge lies in the ability of the organisation to maintain a healthy and competent bench strength without digging into the corporate wallet. HR leaders have to try and prevent holes from forming in the talent bench.

Succession planning gains a whole new meaning in recessionary times. Experts say that organisations need to have a robust succession planning strategy so that they are prepared adequately to combat recessionary blues. Succession planning should ideally begin in the hay days when the economy is booming and things are looking good. It is in such times that HR leaders, along with functional heads, can pursue their succession ideas since both the risks and gains are limited. What's more, recruitment managers have the luxury of 'buying' talent when the going is good, while in a downturn it is more about 'growing' talent. A strong succession pipeline makes all the difference here.

Toning talent muscle

Why should organisations focus on succession planning in a downturn? The reasons are many. The most evident and convincing of them is that in a downturn organisations have little to spare and turning inwards for help will be the only option. This, however, would help only if succession planning was tended to as a critical strategic function in good times.

Financial crisis always pushes employees to do a bit more than what they could. Hence, having a competent bench strength can help organisations produce more without pulling purse strings. Despite awareness about the importance of succession planning and its role in a downturn most organisations have a weak succession plan. Organisations pay little attention to their succession strategy and only prepare a vacancy chart to show how one moves up the ladder. Such apathy towards the critical function can spell disaster for organisations in times of recession. .

Organisations, therefore, should analyse closely the need, purpose, objective, process and the desired output encompassing a succession planning programme. The best way to begin working on a function like succession planning is to work backwards from the outcome to the purpose. This is because only when HR leaders are clear about what they expect from their succession planning will they be able to chart out a plan to achieve it. Without a clear understanding about the outcome leaders may fail to do the right things and therefore may not produce the desired results.

A clearly defined purpose will help leaders define parameters to measure their success and will also help in letting others know about the validity and reliability of the exercise.

Defining points

The success of a succession planning programme can be measured by using a scale that assesses the programme on a number of parameters ranging from usage and design to output. To begin the succession planning drive, it is important that the programme has maximum reach and easy accessibility. For this, the succession plan has to be written down and distributed among the people covered by the programme, and also those sitting on the decision making bench. In addition, the plan must have the following attributes:

The succession plan should be more of a 'progression plan', where the emphasis is on an individual's growth and career progression, and not promotion
  • Every succession plan should have an individualised career graph that would help employees keep a track of their progress
  • Leaders and managers should be open about people who are included in the plan. Clarifying about individual status will help employees get a better perspective to the entire exercise
  • The plan should include appropriate rewards for managers following the plan. Managers who help their subordinates make smooth transitions that are in line with the chalked out plan should be rewarded suitably
  • Succession planning should be articulate and must ensure that the right job moves are made

Succession planning should not lead to crisis. It should be integral to corporate management and save organisations caught in a downward spiral. However, this is possible only if organisations invest adequately in succession planning and build a robust talent pipeline that can be relied upon in times of need.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Talent Preservation

The party seems to be over in the context of global economic boom. Recession has set in, and for companies there is no escape from the tweak.

A natural reaction in such tough times has been cost-cutting, and the human resources department figures first on the chopping list. Corporates have frozen their recruitment budgets almost instantly and are seeking ways to cut on numbers. While employees are at the receiving end, for organisations there is little else to do to help the situation—if they don’t retrench, others on board too will perish!

Though it is difficult for many companies to maintain the existing staff, leveraging the talent onboard and using it to maximise corporate efficiency can be one of the best bail out plans against recessionary blues. The situation is very complex from a recruiter’s perspective too. The need to have a better talent is at its peak, while the resources have run out. In addition, the target group of passive job seekers too is not willing to shift jobs when everything seems so uncertain. All these factors have turned the recruitment scene dismal, and the focus is only on retention.

Loyalty at a premium When the chips are down the chance to bounce back lies in the perspective of the decision-maker. Recession is as natural to the economy as boom time, and it is the perspective of corporate leaders that matters most in such testing times. While cutting costs is important, diluting internal talent resources and barricading flow of creativity can stifle organisational growth. The way a company treats its employees amidst gloom and doom impacts the loyalty quotient. Employers who harness internal talent in times of economic downturn can hope to see an army of loyal employees standing by them, while those who axe talent and get fidgety with employees fail to earn loyalty. It would not be wrong to assume that employers who show greater loyalty towards their employees during critical times would be better poised to claim a greater market share in fair weather.

Recruitment enthusiasts may argue that even in an economic downswing, it would be worthwhile to keep the talent pipeline active. However, corporate strategists say focussing on existing talent is more important. People with foresight and ability to plan ahead agree that preserving the best talent in critical times will save the agony of employee turnover in future.

More tactical, less strategic When it is tough time strategies dictate the course and tactics help ride over it. It is the tactical abilities of leaders that help weather the storm. Hence, leaders and managers have to think ahead in time and leverage the resources available to them. Apart from working towards maintaining optimism at the workplace, leaders have to be concerned over what the employees are thinking about the organisation’s take on the crisis.

Fear is the most dominant feeling in such times, and onus of alleviating fear and pessimism lies with the leaders. Corporate leaders should ensure that employees feel secure and reassured of their jobs. Respecting people’s feelings and giving them their due in critical times is what sets employers apart. Many companies boast of their “zero layoff” record, as they believe it is their approach in tough times that has seen them rank high on the list of most preferred employers.

The example of US steel major Nucor Steel shows how companies that believe in guarding employee interests go the extra mile to save them the agony of a layoff. Nucor Steel has cut on executive perks, and reduced the number of working days instead of laying off staff. Making choices that are more ethical than profitable have proven to be rewarding.

The onus of providing the organisation with the best talent crop lies with human resources professionals. When the going gets tough and vacancies shrink, the responsibility to make a difference and keep the existing talent motivated and inspired also lies with them. HR leaders who understand this go out and prove HR’s worth as a tactical asset.

*Reference: TheManageMentor

When the chips are down, employee retention becomes a nightmare…

The global economy is caught in a downdraft. Organisations are finding hard to maintain worker strength. While employers are helpless, employees are anxious and disgruntled. The agony is higher in organisations that depend on global demand and supply. In the midst of economic gloom and excessive employee turnover, poor retention can result in collateral damage. In such times “onboarding”, as an employee retention technique, assumes great relevance.

Onboarding is a part of the orientation process that prepares employees for their new jobs. Today organisations are speeding up the process. Leaders believe that organisations which create an inspiring work environment by providing the right orientation to employees are more likely to forge lasting ties, as compared to those that do not indulge in onboarding and orientation programmes.

First impression

Onboarding is one of the most defining employment experiences as it gives new recruits a taste of the culture, values and general environment of the organisation, apart from providing other job-related inputs. It is a familiarisation exercise that is aimed at making employees aware of the corporate practices, job position and their respective roles. Some may argue that there is nothing strategic about this ‘mundane’ formality. However, for those who believe it can make all the difference to employee morale and retention, it does make all the difference.

From an employee’s perspective, onboarding programmes help them connect with their colleagues better and begin on a more personal note. Employees who had received only filled up forms indicating their benefits and options will never know the advantages of undergoing a well structured onboarding programme. Organisations that are still undecided on the need for a formal onboarding programme, should consider its benefits against the harm that its absence might cause.

Organisations that have decided in favour of onboarding programmes cite three reasons for their change of mind. They are:
  • Onboarding helps employees connect better with the environment and makes them feel a part of the organisation. Interaction with senior leaders and managers helps new recruits understand the management’s concept of an “ideal culture”. It also shows them the part they are expected to play in the larger scheme of things.
  • Onboarding familiarises new recruits with the corporate culture and practices. While the unwritten rules are learnt over a period of time, the inked policies and cultural practices can be learnt quickly; and the sooner they are learnt the better.
  • Onboarding also enables employees to get on with the job at the earliest. Effective orientation clears many doubts and apprehensions in the minds of new recruits. It provides employees with the much needed momentum to start their work with the right attitude.
Effective onboarding
Having understood the significance of onboarding programmes, one needs to identify the factors that help frame an effective onboarding exercise. While every organisation has its own set of procedures and policies, certain measures are relevant universally. In the context of onboarding, the following guideline will help organisations frame an effective programme
Make it fun and interactive:

Conducting the onboarding exercise in a manner that makes the experience enjoyable is important. Leaders can include team-based games to orient employees. Such games help create instant rapport. While this may not be practical for individual employees, it can be practised while recruiting on a large scale. In addition to having team-based games, interactive presentations and an informal atmosphere can make the experience relaxing and fun.

Spread over a few months:

While onboarding typically suggests orientation for new recruits, the real impact can be felt when the programme is carried on for some months. A number of initiatives can be introduced to help employees get the real feel of the job and a holistic work experience. After the highly focussed first week, the programme can be stretched over a few months to include job rotation, inter-functional job postings and other such issues.

Involve managers:

Onboarding programmes become doubly effective if recruitment managers stay with the process. Their detachment often results in employees who are not as much equipped for job as those who have had their managers involved with onboarding totally.

Mentoring and coaching

New recruits should be provided with coaching and mentoring from the very start of their stint. Mentors must ensure that the new recruit is on the right track and has his feet firmly on the ground. Mentors also need to clear doubts and apprehensions. In addition, formal coaching must be provided to help the new recruit get an insight into the practices in his functional domain, competitor practices and other work-related issues.

Onboarding has often been trivialised. However, in view of the current economic slowdown where organisations are grappling for survival, investing in people on board can help sail through the rough weather!

*Reference: themanagementor

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Retrenchment shadow falls on HR personnel

With most companies either retrenching or freezing recruitment plans, human resources personnel across sectors are a worried lot.

Recruitment- related HR executives are being moved to other HR functions like training and development and other day-to-day HR functions, or being taken on contract. If things worsen, there could also be layoffs.

A Sudarsan, vice-president, sales and marketing, Expertus HR (a wholly-owned subsidiary of US based Expertus Inc), admits: "There will be layoffs in the near future, and companies will increase temporary staff. Meanwhile, I don't forsee any hikes for HR executives."

Moreover, the mix of contractual employees in the HR team across various sectors is expected to increase. Vodafone, for instance, has 25 per cent of its HR staff on a contract basis.
Companies like Wipro, Infosys, TCS] and iGate, too, have a mix of contractual employees in their HR team.

Nandita Gurjar, Senior vice-president and group head, HR, at Infosys Technologies, confirmed that the company has some employees in the HR teams who work on contract basis. She, however, declined to divulge the numbers. "Yes, we have some employees who are on contract, but about the numbers, I have no idea," she said. Infosys has about 300 people in their HR department.

Srinivas Kandula, global head, HR, iGate Corporation, said: "We have about 30 people in our HR team who are on contract basis, but they mostly search job portals and source resumes etc. Because there is not much of career growth for such activities, we prefer contractual employees."

EDS (bought over by HP) and MphasiS (now a subsidiary of EDS), too, have rationalised their HR department functions. Several real estate players like DLF and Unitech, too, have reduced their HR staff and stalled recruitment for the present. Some subsidiaries of ICICI Bank are also said to have cut their HR staff.

Rakesh Malik, practice leader for globalisation and business transformation practice at Hewitt Associates (HR consultancy) , concurs: "Companies might shrink the number of recruitment- related executives in future. But, so far, I haven't seen any layoffs with our clients.

In fact, in slowdown times when companies feel the compelling need to become more aggressive about quality, other functions of HR like performance management, planning and evaluation become more important. Learning and development programmes become significant. Compensation and retention activities become priority that requires more strategic services of HR."

Sampath Shetty, vice-president, TeamLease Services, explains: "When recruitment slows down, operations HR is the first area to bear the brunt. But strategic HR becomes more important. Operations people are getting into training for other strategic HR functions." Of them, temporary executives are the first to be hurt. "Contract renewal period has shrunk from 1 year to 3 months," adds Shetty.

In effect, the role of managed staff services (wherein the HR staff working for companies are on the payrolls of the placement agencies and not employees of the companies) and recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) is expected to gain traction.

Managed staff services will benefit the most as more companies will go for managed staffing, which gives companies staff at variable cost as and when required. "We have seen a 10 per cent increase in demand for temporary staff in the last one-and-a-half month. The demand is expected to double in the next one year," adds Sudarsan.

But managed staff companies are also experiencing the ripples of the slow down. "Companies are asking to reduce management fees (fees paid to managed staff companies on managed staff) by 50 per cent," Sudarsan informs. Most companies have started reducing management fees, others are forced as a result

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rebalancing Gender

Women represent the majority of educated talent in today's knowledge economy. From Arkansas to Abu Dhabi, the majority of university graduates are women: 60 percent in the U.S. and Europe, 60 percent in Iran and 70 percent in the United Arab Emirates. Yet, many organizations still treat them as one minority among many, missing the opportunity to leverage women as a potent economic force.

Most companies recognize this. They launch diversity programs but readily acknowledge gender is their top priority. Women represent not just a significant percent of available talent; they make 80 percent of purchasing decisions about consumer goods. Research indicates companies with more women on the board and in key positions are more profitable, making talent, markets and performance three key drivers behind a renewed interest in gender.Companies often approach gender as an intractable problem. For many organizations and managers, it is an issue they have focused on for decades with relatively unsatisfactory results: too few women in senior positions, too few women on the board and too few women in law firm or consulting firm partnerships.

Diversity leaders often repeat and amplify approaches that have had a limited impact in the past. Typically, companies that want to launch initiatives to improve gender balance in management and leadership benchmark to see what peer organizations have done. But no company has really cracked this issue. Only a hard-to-find handful in a few geographies actually has women at the top and a well-stocked pipeline of female talent.

Companies follow others' best practices even when proof of efficacy is not present. They organize women's conferences, create women's networks, offer women leadership training and coaching, get them to work extra hard - usually in their spare time - to prepare recommendations on how to improve the situation. It's Gender 101 in most American companies, and the class is increasingly being exported internationally. In this fix-the-women approach, the underlying - if unexpressed - assumption is women are not making it to the top of the corporate world because they can't, don't have what it takes or don't want to.

Consider a quote from Olivier Marchal, managing director of Bain & Co. in France: "In improving gender balance women may hold the keys, but men still control the locks." Men have been uninvolved in the gender conversation for too long. Without them, progress on rebalancing gender will be stalled for many more years.

Where We're Going: 'Fix the Managers'

To impact gender balance, diversity leaders must ask the right people, the right questions. Rather than ask women why they are not being promoted, ask the people doing the promoting. Rather than get women to devise strategies to improve gender balance, why not get both genders involved in the analysis and implementation of action plans?

Rather than expect women to adopt the current pyramidal business model to move up, why not question the relevance of the model in today's business landscape and get women to help redesign it for a 21st-century world? That requires starting at the top, usually by spending a day with the executive committee.

Most executive committees are neither convinced nor aligned around a business case for gender balance. They are largely unaware of the impressive statistics on women's economic power as employees and customers. And when they are aware, these numbers are not always presented in a convincing way - despite the different degrees of potential impact on the bottom line - or they have been part of more global briefings on diversity that drowns the message.

The (usually male) executive committee members rarely have been asked to debate or analyze the issue, and unless there is some form of experiential buy-in at this level, little progress will be made. Spend a half or a full day with these teams in sessions that can then be rolled out to their direct reports and key executive and managerial populations. Only companies willing to invest in building gender bilingualism among their leaders are in a realistic position to implement the change-management mentality around gender as a business issue that is required to make real, sustainable progress.

The CEO should be involved and challenge group members to air their views honestly. Political correctness can be the death of the gender dialogue. They will chew through the numbers, review their internal realities and debate the issue and its strategic relevance for their organizations. They should get expert input into gender differences and how to manage them. Then craft the action plan, complete with defined objectives, timetables and accountability, and commit to it. If they don't have the time, or decide it's not a priority, don't bother. Nonstrategic gender initiatives do as much harm as good.

Sessions can include men and women but currently are dominated by men in most corporate leadership positions. The gender mix brings added depth to the debate but is not essential to reach the key objective: to get today's leaders to understand the gender issue and to define how significant a priority it is for their businesses. These sessions have three major objectives:

Objective No. 1:

Find out who cares. In most companies, the CEO reaching out for help achieving gender balance is personally convinced of the need to move forward and create impact at the top. The CEO usually is convinced his executive committee team is aligned behind him. But the gender issue often is either mired in political correctness or seen as a minor HR issue, so the real pros and cons of rebalancing gender rarely have been debated at this level. Dissent has never been aired, and alignment among the leadership team often is simply assumed.

Alignment is rarely evident. Wanting to believe everyone agrees on gender balance is a significant barrier to actually implementing the required changes. So the first exercise is to conduct a quick, confidential vote. Ask each executive committee member to write on a Post-It the priority level they would give to the gender issue as a business issue for their company in the next five years on a scale of one to 10. The numbers usually range across the board. Within two minutes of starting, diversity leaders can establish the key reason a company has made little progress on this issue: Its leaders don't agree that it should.

Objective No. 2:

Look at the data. Review the statistics. Do the external ones first: the reality of a shifting talent pool, customer profiles, demographic pressures and differentiated academic achievements. Then do internal ones: Contrast the significant, sometimes revolutionary, external evolutions with a company's internal statistics and progress over time.

Data will tell its own story. The tale is not that of the oft-cited glass ceiling, with its assumption that women make it up through the ranks until a sudden blockage at a senior level. The reality in today's corporate world is the percentage of women drops off at almost every grade level.The glass ceiling metaphor has blinded diversity leaders to a more pervasive problem - what we call "gender asbestos." Behind the metaphors, the reality is companies have not yet adapted their cultures, career paths, processes and promotions to the reality of 21st-century talent and markets. They still are not identifying, retaining and promoting female talent, despite decades spent trying. Most of the members of the executive committee likely have never looked at this data in detail or been asked whether it would impact their business.

So ask them. A simple SWOT exercise is enough. Ask the team to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of their company in rebalancing gender in leadership. They are likely all familiar with the process. They've just never applied it to gender. And when they do, the experiential part of the learning comes into play.The learning comes not only from the debate among themselves about the data's significance and whether they should care about it. The real learning comes when the mostly male members of the team hear their colleagues' positions on the topic. In a half-hour exercise, it becomes intensely clear and unavoidably visible what each individual thinks of gender, how comfortable they are discussing the issue - let alone leading on it - and which of three typical segments they fall into: progressive, patient or plodding.

Nothing is more impactful for the progressives in the room than to hear a group of plodding colleagues use arguments they thought had disappeared a generation ago. It usually is a strong wake up call for the CEO and goes a long way to explain lack of progress and the reality of the challenge that lies ahead.

Objective No. 3:

Make a plan. The day usually concludes with some form of action planning. The usual reaction is to hand gender-balance initiatives over to the company's most senior woman to lead. But in organizations in which the leadership is dominated by men, it is more effective to appoint a male leader to this topic. After all, the issue moving forward along this approach is to convince men they are part of the change-management process in rebalancing gender.

Once the executive committee has been through this kind of workshop, it likely will agree it needs to be rolled out to executives and managers. The feedback - a combination of awareness building, strategic planning and pragmatic proposals for action - is a potent case for progress.

Rebalancing gender in leadership does not require a decades-long investment in training and coaching women to adopt behaviors more acceptable to the dominant norm. Instead, it invites the dominant norm to better understand why its interests lie in optimizing the talents and opportunities of women and how to manage more "bilingually" across genders. That when real progress can begin.

21st-Century Approaches to Achieve Gender Balance

a) Start by getting the executive committee and CEO to understand the issue.

b) Position it a business issue, not a women's issue.

c) Get top management to design/approve an action plan.

d) Appoint a high-profile senior man to run the gender initiative.

e) Position gender outside of diversity, preferably outside of HR.

f) Think of women as a majority.

g) Train men (and women) how to manage "bilingually" across genders.

Traditional Approaches

a) Position gender as a part of wider diversity initiatives.

b) Call gender initiatives "Women in Leadership," clearly positioning it as women's issue, not a business issue.

c) Think of women as a minority.

d) Appoint a woman to run the gender issue.

e) Create a women's network as the key initiative.

f) Ask women for proposals to improve gender balance.

g) Promote women, as long as they behave as much like men as possible

[About the Author: Avivah Wittenberg-Cox is CEO of 20-first, a European gender consultancy and co-author of Why Women Mean Business: Understanding the Emergence of Our Next Economic Revolution.]

Inspiring Employees Through Recognition

As McDonald's Founder Ray Kroc knew, there is no better way to inspire a team than with recognition. From the chairman of the board to the receptionist, we all have a deep-down craving for it. Build your company's culture on the foundation of rewarding and recognizing hard workers, and you'll create a fertile work environment where resiliency, high standards, high retention, loyalty, innovation, positive risk taking and high morale are present.

A Gallup poll revealed 65 percent of Americans haven't received recognition in the past year. A United States Department of Labor study found the No. 1 reason why people leave organizations is they don't feel appreciated. As American psychologist Abraham Maslow stated in his theory of motivation, people thrive on recognition as a form of self-value when they feel their contributions make a difference. Consider the rewards that are most important to your organization. Jot down the kind of effort needed to bring those values from the abstract to the concrete. Build those efforts into job descriptions so employees become accountable for the action steps. Recognize those who achieve the best results, whether by praising them in public or giving a keepsake at the company celebration, complete with a speech about the employee's commitment to excellence and the results it brought to the organization as a whole. Others will see what excellence is all about.Let's look at some time-tested ways leaders can inspire employees to do their best:

1. Make recognition a policy, not a perk. Take time to develop a system of rewards for everyone at your company. Include pinnacle rewards for high lifetime achievers, such as McDonald's coveted President's Award, as well as more ordinary incentives, such as bonuses. Educate the entire staff about the program, post it for all to see, and promote it frequently.

2. Little things mean a lot. A handshake is the least expensive way talent managers can recognize top performers - and perhaps the most effective. Look them in the eye and say thanks. Be specific about what the employee did that you appreciated so much, and why.

3. Recognize them with fanfare. When bestowing an honor on a high-achieving employee, make it a celebration. That could mean inviting family members to be at an awards dinner, or stopping the workday early to hold a company-wide ceremony.

4. Remember the spouse. For marathon efforts - such as large-scale projects or regional sales turnarounds - remember to recognize the employee's significant other. After all, without the support of the employee's partner, he or she wouldn't have delivered such terrific results.

5. Respect your frontline. Remember the little guys: the cashiers, customer-service people and maintenance staff. They are the face of your operation and will boost your brand better than anyone else if you make them feel appreciated.

6. Boost team spirit. Recognizing teams or departments also is important. It binds employees together in pride. A plaque, a magnum of champagne and a Friday afternoon off are all ways you can tell a group of employees: "You did this together, and you excelled."

7. Make rewards meaningful. Don't give front-row stadium seats to an employee who could care less about baseball. Find out employees' favorite restaurants, for example, or whether they like theatre or music, and give them a night out they will really enjoy.

8. Recognition from the top means the most. A personal phone call or thank-you note from the CEO often has more impact on an employee than anything else.

9. Don't forget suppliers and clients. When you create a culture steeped in recognition, your gratitude and appreciate should spread past your company walls. Don't forget to thank loyal vendors and clients for their excellent contributions with a letter, a paperweight or even a charitable gift in their name.

by Paul Facella

How to Survive a Panel Interview

Over the past year there is growing trend towards panel or group interviews. It is becoming increasingly common for job seekers to meet with panels of three or more decision makers in one interview. Many job seekers approach panel interviews with trepidation. But with a bit of preparation, it can be a very efficient and rewarding process. Here are a few tips on how to survive a panel interview.

1. Focus on the positive aspects of the panel interview. A panel interview is like any other interview, but with a larger audience. Don't be intimidated by the fact that "all eyes are on you." Instead, try to think of the efficiencies that the panel interview affords you. Candidates who participate in panel interviews generally go through fewer rounds of interviews before the hiring decision is made. A panel interview decreases the likelihood that you will be asked redundant questions by different interviewers and gives you less need to "recycle" your interview strategy at multiple meetings.

2. Pay extra attention to the details.Arriving late to an interview or showing up with mismatched socks is bad enough during a one-on-one interview. These errors in judgment will certainly be magnified if they are observed by a panel of interviewers at the same point in time.

3. When you meet each person on the panel, ask for a business card. Before the interview begins, place the cards in front of you and facing in the direction of the appropriate person to help you remember the names of the people you are interviewing with. Refer to each person by name during the conversation to personalize your responses and build rapport with the group.

4. Don't assume that the most senior person is the decision maker.Frequently business leaders rely on their team to help make decisions about candidates; be sure to include everyone in the conversation. If one person in the group asks you a question, begin your answer by responding to that person, but then make eye contact with the others to build rapport with everyone in the room.

5. Try to size up the agenda of everyone in the group.The needs of the marketing, operations, and sales teams will be different, so make sure can showcase stories of success that will resonate with the different business heads you are interviewing with.

6. Be cognizant of the group dynamic.The panel interview gives you a better idea of how the group interacts and works as a team. These subtle but important cues are often missed during one on one interviews. Observing the group dynamic during the interview phase may help you make better decisions about the company culture and how well you would fit in with the team.

7. Send everyone in the group a thank you letter and make sure each letter is unique.The thank you letter is a great tool for reconnecting with the hiring team, but, in order to be seen as authentic, you need to communicate your thanks to each person individually and avoid redundant content. Try to focus on one key point of exchange with each person you interviewed with.It's a bit of extra work to mind multiple decision makers, but in the long run it's worth it. You're on your way to landing your next position in less time, with equal effort.

by Barbara Safani

Top 25 Careers to Pursue in a Recession

Health Care: People will always get sick — sometimes even more so when they don't have the insurance or money to take preventative measures or eat healthy food.

Energy: Although consumers are likely to cut back, they're not going to stop using energy. In fact, this industry may grow, as companies look for more efficient ways to deliver using less energy.

Education: No matter how dire the economy is, there are always jobs for teachers. Kids will still go to school, and many out-of-work adults may decide to continue their education.

Utilities: Just like the energy sector, it's safe to assume that people are not going to stop lighting their homes. So utility administration, maintenance and other related jobs should remain intact.

International Business: Even when the economy is doing poorly in the U.S., other countries may be doing well. So if you are involved in international business, you can expect your career to stay safe.

Public Safety: Police layoffs are very rare, especially at a time where public safety is threatened by desperate criminals. A career in public safety is almost guaranteed to be secure.

Funerals: Just like people won't stop getting sick, they'll continue to die as well, so as morbid as it is, morticians will always have customers.

Accounting: Death and taxes are a sure thing. In a recession, people and companies are likely to get desperate for more deductions and a hard look at their books.

Federal Government: Most federal-government jobs end only when workers retire. Additionally, government services tend to step up in times of recession, so your chances of getting and keeping a government job are good.

Pharmaceuticals: As long as doctors prescribe them, people are still going to take drugs. So whether you're behind the pharmacy counter or in the lab, you can rest easy.

Sales: As a general rule, anyone who is a source of income for a company will be safe, so salespeople — especially in recession-proof industries — have little to worry about.

Military: The military is always hiring, especially during wartime. Also, consider that most of your living expenses are covered, so cost-of-living expenses are not really a concern.

Gambling: When times get tough, people seek an outlet. One of those outlets is gambling, especially because it offers a chance to turn financial troubles around.

Alcohol: Alcohol is another outlet for troubled times, so distributors and manufacturers in this industry will continue to thrive.

Politics: Even in a recession, public officials are still around earning tidy sums, which are often tied to the cost of living.

Skilled Services: Hair will always grow, and drains will always clog, so you can expect steady work in skilled services like plumbing and hairstyling.

Debt Management: Recessions mean crunch time for debtors, and they're sure to need some guidance.

Consulting: Recessions are crunch times for companies as well, and they're likely to bring in consultants for advice on efficiency and squeezing the most out of their resources.

Bankruptcy Law: It's sad, but true: As companies and individuals go bankrupt, they'll need a lawyer to help them work through it all.

Government Contracting: Despite money troubles, roads must be maintained and schools must be built. Contract your work out for government functions for job security.

Food: People need food to survive, and it's not likely that anyone is going to just stop eating — no matter how bad the economy gets.

Beauty, Health and Erotic Services: Regardless of a recession, people who enjoy being pampered will seldom give up the simple pleasures in life.

Debt Collection: As budgets get squeezed, people will fall behind on payments, and companies will look to debt collectors to recoup their costs.

Ultra luxury Items: If you're in a business that caters to the ultra rich, you can expect to be safe, as this type of consumer is likely to have measures in place to weather the recession.

Multifaceted Careers: If you don't put all of your eggs in one basket, you should be able to ride out a recession by relying on secondary income. So if you juggle a career that involves a regular job, plus other sources like online income, freelancing and investing, numerous failures have to happen before you're really in trouble.

Although today's job market may be bleak, there are some bright spots if you know where to look. While recessions hit some sectors hard, others go on like clockwork — or even experience growth. So whether you're hunting for a job or still feeling ostensibly secure, now is a good time to evaluate your options and consider one of the aforementioned recession-proof careers.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obama's Seven Lessons for Radical Innovators

Barack Obama is one of the most radical management innovators in the world today. Obama's team built something truly world-changing: a new kind of political organization for the 21st century. It differs from yesterday's political organizations as much as Google and Threadless differ from yesterday's corporations: all are a tiny handful of truly new, 21st century institutions in the world today.

Obama presidential bid succeeded, through the power of new DNA; new rules for new kinds of institutions.So let's discuss the new DNA Obama brought to the table, by outlining seven rules for tomorrow's radical innovators.

1. Have a self-organization design. What was really different about Obama's organization? We're used to thinking about organizations in 20th century terms: do we design them to be tall, or flat? But tall and flat are concepts built for an industrial era. They force us to think - spatially and literally - in two dimensions: tall organizations command unresponsively, and flat organizations respond uncontrollably.

Obama's organization blew past these orthodoxies: it was able to combine the virtues of both tall and flat organizations. How? By tapping the game-changing power of self-organization. Obama's organization was less tall or flat than spherical - a tightly controlled core, surrounded by self-organizing cells of volunteers, donors, contributors, and other participants at the fuzzy edges. The result? Obama's organization was able to reverse tremendous asymmetries in finance, marketing, and distribution - while McCain's organization was left trapped by a stifling command-and-control paradigm.

2. Seek elasticity of resilience. Obama's 21st century organization was built for a 21st century goal - not to maximize outputs, or minimize inputs, but to, remain resilient to turbulence. What happened when McCain attacked Obama with negative ads in September? Such attacks would have depleted the coffers of a 20th century organization, who would have been forced to retaliate quickly and decisively in kind. Yet, Obama's organization responded furiously in exactly the opposite way: with record-breaking fundraising. That's resilience: reflexively bouncing back to an existential threat by growing, augmenting, or strengthening resources.

3. Minimize strategy. Obama's campaign dispensed almost entirely with strategy in its most naïve sense: strategy as gamesmanship or positioning. They didn't waste resources trying to dominate the news cycle, game the system, strong-arm the party, or out-triangulate competitors' positions. Rather, Obama's campaign took a scalpel to strategy - because they realized that strategy, too often, kills a deeply-lived sense of purpose, destroys credibility, and corrupts meaning.

4. Maximize purpose. Change the game? That's 20th century thinking at its finest - and narrowest. The 21st century is about changing the world. What does "Yes We Can" really mean? Obama's goal wasn't simply to win an election, garner votes, or run a great campaign. It was larger and more urgent: to change the world.

Bigness of purpose is what separates 20th century and 21st century organizations: yesterday, we built huge corporations to do tiny, incremental things - tomorrow, we must build small organizations that can do tremendously massive things. And to do that, you must strive to change the world radically for the better - and always believe that yes, you can. You must maximize, stretch, and utterly explode your sense of purpose.

5. Broaden unity. What do marketers traditionally do? Segment and target, slice and dice. We've become great at dividing markets into tinier and tinier bits. But we're terrible at unifying them. Yet Obama succeeded not through division, but through unification: we are, he contended, "not a collection of Red States and Blue States -- We are the United States of America".

Obama intuitively understands a larger truth of next-generation economics. Unified markets are what a world driven to collapse by hyperconsumption is desperately going to need. We're going to need not a hundred different kinds of razors - and their spiralling costs of complexity and waste - but a single razor that everybody, from the slums of Rio to the lofts of Tribeca, is overjoyed to use.

6. Thicken power. The power many corporations wield is thin power: the power to instill fear and inculcate greed. True power is what Obama has learned wield: the power to inspire, lead, and engender belief. You can beat people into subjugation - but you can never command their loyalty, creativity, or passion. Thick power is true power: it's radically more durable, less costly, and more intense.

7. Remember that there is nothing more asymmetrical than an ideal. Obama ended his last speech before the election by saying: "let's go change the world" Why are those words important? Because the world needs changing. A world riven by economic meltdown, religious conflict, resource scarcity, and intractable poverty and violence - such a world demands fresh ideals. We must mold and shape a better world - or we will surely all suffer together. As Obama said: "We rise or one people". In such a world, forget about a short-lived, often meaningless "competitive advantage". It's a concept built for the 20th century. In the 21st century, there is nothing more asymmetrical - more disruptive, more revolutionary, or more innovative -- than the world-changing power of an ideal.

Where are the ideals in your organization? What ideals are missing - absent, bankrupt, stolen - from your economy, industry, or market? What ideals will you fight and struggle for - and live? Because the ultimate problem with industrial-era business was, as Wall Street has so convincingly demonstrated, this: there weren't any.

That seventh lesson is the starting point for tomorrow's radical innovators - because it's the thread that knits the others together. And it's where you should start if you want to use these seven rules to start building 21st century institutions - whether businesses, non-profits, social enterprises, or political campaigns.


Opportunity in adversity

Staying afloat
In a time when most are feeling the tremors of the global financial meltdown, there are a handful of Indian sectors that are still staying afloat. “If you look at sectors like insurance, healthcare, engineering, you will notice that they are still growing in volumes and value,” notes Ajay Soni, business leader - talent and organisation consulting, Hewitt.

What perhaps is keeping sectors like insurance afloat is the consumer mindset and attitudes. “Unlike developed economies like the USA, savings is in our DNA. In tough times we save even more for the future,” explains N.S. Kannan, executive director, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance.
Industry experts are optimistic and are expecting the private life insurance industry to grow at a 30 per cent rate by FY ’09. “Since core of life insurance is long term savings and protection, these times with sensex crashing will not affect investors’ decisions,” Kannan reasons. “Customer focuses on long term objective and invests over a time period,” he adds. ICICI Prudential has reportedly witnessed 31 per cent growth in its new businesses and 90 per cent growth through renewal premium business in the last six months. “We’ve expanded phenomenally in the last 18-24 months and our bulk expansion has been in the last 6-8 months,” says Kannan.

In fact, from a branch network of 580 offices in FY’07, I-Pru now has 2,055 branches across the country. “We continue to recruit managers and advisory manpower for these new branches that we’ve set up,” Kannan adds.

Sectors galore
Insurance sector is playing an interesting role in the current downmarket scenario. The life insurance industry has pumped in a huge amount in the equity markets. “Firms like ours and other life insurers have been net buyers even in such volatile times," informs Kannan.

Then, there’s healthcare which is also reportedly doing better than most other sectors. “The global financial turmoil has not brought about any major upheavals in the biotech arena,” says Chirag Mehta, head, strategic planning and development, Intas Biopharmaceuticals. Intas Biopharmaceuticals has seen a 100 per cent growth in the FY '07-'08 and is expecting the same for the current fiscal year. “We are on track to achieve this. Our performance this year and in the remaining quarters would be in line with our expectations,” Mehta points out. “We do not see any major business plan change for the near future,” he adds.

This perhaps also implies no major change in the hiring strategy. “We have added over 15 per cent to our manpower base during the last quarter and the trend for the subsequent quarter would remain unchanged,” confirms Dr. Kashmira Pagdiwalla, director, HR operations, Intas Biopharmaceuticals. Elaborating on the areas of healthcare where major hiring is happening, Dr. Pagdiwalla says, “The talent need is growing in the areas of research, manufacturing, marketing and corporate roles.” Of course, these are sectors that aren’t connected to the meltdown. However, even the services sector which has been adversely hit by the recession has pockets of growth. “In the services sector, Telecom is adding to the customer base and reporting continual growth,” Soni points out. One such example is Airtel which has grown at a 30 per cent rate from the last quarter.The way ahead

Soni, like other industry watchers, believes that the way forward is to set the house in order and use this time to create a strong DNA of managing organisation. “This time offers an option of looking at long-term and not just quarterly performances,” asserts Soni. “Forward looking organisations would build themselves for the long term,” he adds.

To put it simply, it’s an opportunity for managers to reflect on their business strategies and plan for contingencies.

Ref: Times Ascent

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New role for HR in disruptive times

The business environment marked by disruptive change has led organisations to acknowledge the need to redefine their mantras of effectiveness. Organisations have seen a shift in power from themselves to their customers. So how does an organisation deal with this almost tectonicshift in the context it operates in?

Even within an organisation, a division could see a similar shift in its own importance in the context of changing business needs. How can such divisions grapple with new expectations?

Hitherto line managers were expected to handle customers, deliver service to customers with their relationship skills and product knowledge. These managers now find that they are required to display a host of new skills. They are now expected to display the ability to understand the new business environment and fine-tune their management style to adapt to the new paradigm. Managers are being called upon to coach and mentor their team-mates to help them perform to their capacity rather than set targets and monitor performance.

HR departments hitherto watched from the sidelines and performed peripheral tasks that supported the business. HR professionals now find themselves being thrust into roles which they had never experienced or had the capabilities for. They are being required to understand business, appreciate the key issues that the business is working with and even anticipate the kind of needs that the business will have going forward.

What is the key to success for an organisation that grapples with a change, the division that sees centrality to the organisation being challenged and the HR person who attempts to deal with vastly changing tasks and expectations? The answer is - Being relevant.

The organisation will prosper if it continues to be relevant to the customer, the business division will stay central to the organisation's future if it recognizes the changed needs.

The HR function and HR executives can become critical to the company if they leverage the opportunity that vastly changing roles for all the constituents in the company presents to them. HR has an opportunity to become the most strategic resource of the company.

HR can deal with the changing circumstances by understanding the key drivers on the human performance dimensions. By virtue of their ability to determine what every person in the company requires in terms of input, they are ideally suited to both understand as well as implement this. They can thus, equip the managers to help cope with the new challenges and imbue them with the skills, knowledge and behaviour required to be successful in the changed situation. This will naturally place the HR manager in a new light and be seen for the value he offers to the business mangers to become more effective. The opportunity for HR to be strategic is brighter than it ever was. It is for the more clued -in among HR managers to grab the opportunities and become absolutely relevant to the business. They now have the mandate to walk down the road less travelled and to shape organisations and find their place in the sun.

Ref: Times Ascent

Essential skills for a people manager

The role of a manager is to ensure that the team is cohesive and each member feels proud to belong to the team. The manager is the team's link to the larger organisation. He has to set the right target, create enthusiasm among people, develop a positive attitude and motivate them to do their best. He should look further ahead so that the goals are selected wisely. A good people manager ensures that the problems are tackled well in time. He possesses the ability to effectively negotiate and use persuasion when necessary to ensure the success of the team and project. Through effective communication the manager supports individual and team achievements by creating guidelines for accomplishing tasks and for the career advancement of team members. He also has an excellent ability to delegate tasks and keep his cool under pressure.

Effective managers are great motivators. Each employee requires a different kind of motivation. Non-monetary rewards form an important part of a comprehensive employee recognition program. Non-monetary means can be used for either individual or team rewards. One could seek out and share stories of exceptionally motivated explorers, athletes, musicians, artists, volunteers, inventors and entrepreneurs. Find out what activities and pursuits have created maximum motivation in the past for employees. Listen to your team members carefully. Watch your words during team discussions. This will make a lot of difference. Share all the details you have related to the projects with the team members. This will result in deeper involvement of the team. Give them timely, accurate and regular feedback. Encourage the team to face risks. Be prepared with the mitigation strategies upfront. Setting deadlines and goals helps keep employees focused, busy and motivates them to concentrate on their work. Talk to each employee about the company's goals, and work with them to set individual goals directly linked to your business's mission. Make sure employees understand their professional growth path in the company.

Communicate! Open communication is the number one priority for most employees. If you want your employees to work hard and be committed to your business, you have to keep them in the loop. Open communication helps foster loyalty and gives employees a sense of pride. It helps them understand how their work contributes to the company's success. Trust is an essential element in the relationship of a manager and his team. You demonstrate your trust in others through your actions - how much you check and control their work, how much you delegate and how much you allow people to participate.

To be an effective manager you must know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and those of the people around you. You must know your objectives and have a plan of how to achieve them. You must build a team of people that share your commitment to achieve those objectives, and you must help each team member to achieve his best in order to attain a common goal. Rewards and recognition should be based on meritocracy. Feedback from the other team members should be acceptable but the judgment should be made with an independent mind. An effective manager is often described as having a vision of where to go and the ability to articulate it. He is the one who provides equal opportunity to everyone and ensures that people feel connected.

Ref:Times Ascent

First Impression, Last Impression

The first day of work is one day no one forgets in a hurry. Whether you’re on your first job or your fifth, the sheer novelty of being in a new office, and dealing with new people is enough to give even the most seasoned professionals an acute case of ‘butterflies-in-stomach’. We’ve all heard the clichés about the first impression being all-important and no one wants to commit an irreversible faux pas on their first day at work.

Many people choose to play as safe and get away with pleasant first days at work. Raedita Tandon, an entertainment journalist with cine-magazine shares, “I was given a lot of advice from my parents before starting as it was my first job.” She further adds, “I was told to be myself but be careful of what I said, be friendly with everyone, but not to be too free either.”

Not all people are that lucky, of course. Take the case of Sheetal Kapoor (name changed), who used to work in the customer care department of a large company. “I started off on a Sunday shift, and once we were feeling quite laidback and getting a lot of uninspiring calls,” she reveals. “There was this one particular call where I gave a customer wrong information out of disinterest. As it turned out, it was my boss who had called to check up on us, and he gave me a piece of his mind for being so lax,” she adds. While things usually smooth themselves out over the course of time, it helps to be on your toes and avoid such incidents by preparing oneself.

Sometimes, however, people can be overenthusiastic in their attempt to make a good impression, which can lead to unfortunate consequences. There are people like Hari Srinivasan (name changed) who had disastrous first days because of overzealousness. “I had just shifted to a new magazine and there was no set way of working. I had just come from a more established magazine and I was used to working in a particular manner,” shares Srinivasan. “I was completely lost and had no idea what was going on. So I went ahead and edited some articles and got pages laid out, despite the fact that there were no set templates. Eventually, I was questioned as to why I did that and I had to re-do all that work,” he informs.

How does one recover from a seemingly unforgivable slip-up? Because, not only can these be detrimental to one’s image and self-confidence, they can also cause a slight deviation in what would have otherwise been a smoother career graph. The answer lies with etiquette trainers who help equip professionals and job-aspirants with the required soft skills to make sure they don’t commit professional hara-kiri. “Corporate etiquette trainers groom you on intra and inter-office etiquette, also dealing with cross-cultural traits,” states Hetal Parekh, a corporate etiquette trainer. “Companies usually hire them in orientation programmes, but one can also get it done personally,” he notes.

Here are some tips offered by Hetal Parekh for that first day:


1) Know the culture of your company and dress accordingly. Looks matter and that is half the battle won. 70% of your impression depends on how you look, 20% depends on your body language, and only 10% on what you’re actually saying.
2) Find out your hierarchy, and make sure you don’t cross the line. Use discretion when speaking of superiors to other people. Know your job profile.
3) Be prepared for unknown surprises in your daily schedule. Carry a lunch box just in case there isn’t time for lunch. Make sure you have a way to get back home. Be prepared to stay till whatever time you may be required; don’t be in a hurry to leave.
1) If you have internet access, don’t surf the net even if you have nothing to do. It creates a bad impression. Remember, you are definitely being watched.

2) Sending out personal e-mails or forwards is a no-no. Try not to take personal calls. If absolutely necessary, keep them short.
3) Don’t gesticulate a lot; be careful of your body language. Don’t be too loud and attention-seeking. Always shake hands with everyone you meet; a good handshake is a must.

Times Ascent

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The First and the Best! - Recruitment & Retention

Recruiting is indeed stressful. Recruiting managers are working constantly to meet deadlines and are eternally at war with time. The pressure to keep organisations adequately staffed with quality talent is huge. It needs recruiting managers to be on their toes, keeping a constant vigil on the changing work picture and the competitors' recruiting strategy. To add to the chaos, is a downdraft that has taken economists and business leaders across the globe by surprise. They find themselves plummeted from what they called the "economic zenith" to an abyss of recession.

In an economic downturn recruiting becomes doubly challenging. For, companies have little resources to spare while the demand and desperateness to survive increase creating a grossly -skewed demand-supply equation. Thus, it is important that corporates design their recruiting strategy in a way that helps them stay afloat even when the environment conspires against them.

Recruits are for keeps

Most recruiting efforts go wasted as recruiting managers witness a gross mismatch between the "perceived competence" of the recruit and the "actual competence" and they have to do the exercise all over again! Experts believe this is precisely where most resources-time, money and effort-get wasted and therefore this is also the point where resource economisation can take place. Recruiting managers have to be aware and cautious about the possible traps that can hamper their ability to recruit right the first time. According to research, there are three basic recruiting traps that levy a heavy drag on a recruiting manager's ability to recruit right. These include:

  • Recruiting against time

  • Recruiting on the basis of the resume rather than the person presenting the resume

  • Recruiting purely on the basis of job description

These recruiting traps indicate how simple mistakes can cause a big dent on the corporate pocket. Understanding that all issues emerge from simple and non-complex mistakes is important as most times managers tend to ignore the basic issues and in doing so create a situation marked by chaos and confusion.

Recruiting managers often recruit in a hurry under high pressure, without dwelling much on important recruit details and corporate requirements. In the rush to fill the empty chairs, recruiting managers lose perspective of the larger picture and make decisions based on availability of time and not availability of talent. In addition, recruiting managers get influenced unreasonably by the resumes they see. Their decisions depend to a large extent on the qualifications and work experience of the individual and therefore fail to take into account other intangible factors like personality, values, beliefs, character traits and soft skills.

Apart from recruiting in a hurry, recruiting managers also need to stay wary of "resume recruiting" and make a deliberate attempt to assess people on what they see and not what they "read". Resumes can be extremely misleading, since most times they are not written by the person himself but by some "resume management" consultant! Achievements are exaggerated beyond comprehension to create an impression that often manages to do its job well! Such misleading resumes play havoc with organisation's talent pool and only pollute it if anything.

Further, recruiting managers should be aware that job descriptions represent only the technical aspect of the job. However the soul of the job lies outside the technical pre-requisites and therefore it is important that recruiting managers take into account the intangible factors required to succeed in that particular job.

Evading the trap

How does one dodge the traps? The traps are extremely elusive and intricately woven with basic recruiting fabric that it becomes extremely difficult for recruiting managers to evade. To do so , experts suggest a systematic procedure that takes care of important recruiting milestones like internal recruiting, culture, team competence, and candidate screening. Each of these factors plays a significant role in effective recruiting and therefore if they are tended to well they can result in great recruiting success.

Internal recruiting

Internal recruiting is an extremely viable source of talent that works well if recruiting managers approach it the right way. The crux of internal recruiting lies in benchmarking. Benchmarking provides recruiting managers with the right perspective about the existing talent within a given function, the top performer rating and the expectations tied to the established standards.

Core culture and team competence

Recruiting managers need to evaluate the organisational culture and identify the defining attributes of the cultures. This will help managers convey corporate priorities to the candidate better and in turn understand his priorities, thereby enabling better overlap between the two.

Apart from a thorough understanding of the corporate culture, managers also need to identify the key players of their work teams and understand why the teams are not working to their optimum levels. This understanding would help in identifying the missing links and prevent duplication and redundancy of any kind.

Recruiting practices

Redefining recruiting practices would help managers fine- tune their recruiting efforts. The redefinition exercise should include:

  • A recruiting protocol that lists the procedure and practices for effective recruiting

  • Encourage cross-training within the organisation

  • Create candidate-screening rules applicable across the company

  • Build behaviour-based interview models

  • Create a decision -making template that gives relevant weightage to important parameters in the decision -making process

Recruiting in an economic downturn is tough. The traps become more rigid and the minefields even more lethal. Hence recruiting managers have to plan much ahead of time and lay down procedures that would help them recruit the best the very first time, saving them the agony of going talent hunting yet again!